As presently constituted, the Electoral College disenfranchises millions of Americans every four years. The institution of the Electoral College should be retained, but the method of allocating electoral votes should be revised to apportion them based upon the popular vote in each state. This issue is addressed below, based solely upon sources from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 itself.
Union of States, Not a Federal
In the summer of 1787, some of
The Constitution was framed in an environment in which individual states were more powerful than the national government. The thirteen colonies had rebelled against
But this was not truly a federal government. There was no national executive, nor a national judiciary. Congress could not levy taxes: it had to requisition money from the states, which were not compelled to respond. Frequently, states simply chose not to provide funds to Congress. The states printed their own (often worthless) paper currencies, negotiated their own trade agreements, taxed each other’s commerce, declared war on the Indians and largely did whatever they wanted, ignoring the restrictions of the Articles as was convenient. It also required an all-but impossible unanimous vote of all thirteen states to amend the Articles, ensuring that the welfare of one would prevail over the good of all.
It is possible, from reading the notes of certain delegates to the Convention, to deduce that THE most significant concern facing the delegates was the striking of a balance between the fledgling national government and the established states. A new, federal form of government that stripped too much power from the states was in danger of not being ratified by nine of those very states, as was required by the proposed Constitution. And a government containing a strong executive would awaken still too-fresh memories of rule by a tyrannical monarchy.
So, a document was crafted, containing concessions and compromises that were necessary to gain the approval of both the delegates and also of the state ratifying conventions. Even Alexander Hamilton, who played a key role in the ratification of the Constitution referred to it as “a bundle of compromises.”
Items that today seem hardly worth discussion were vitally important during the Constitutional Convention, such as navigational rights on American waterways and who could negotiate international treaties. These matters were indicative of the important role of states at the Convention. Those who supported ratification of the Constitution were dubbed ‘Federalists:’ Those who opposed, ‘Anti-Federalists.’ It was a contest between those who favored a central government and those who supported state’s rights.
It is true that factions also existed between small and large states, and northern and southern states. But these alliances could shift and change with the issue being discussed. Those who subscribed to federal and state perspectives remained constant in those views.
An ideological concern at the Convention was that of giving the uneducated, uninformed public the power to select the President. There was much debate over the how to elect the members of what became known as The House of Representatives. Roger Sherman of Connecticut said “The people should have as little to do as may be about government. They lack information and are constantly liable to be misled.” Elbridge Gerry of
Charles Pinckney of
Multiple Proposals for Electing the President
The method of selecting the President was one of the final issues to be resolved and many proposals had been made over the course of the convention. Flaws were identified in each and the issue remained unresolved as the Convention moved towards its final days.
Selection by the National Legislature
On May 29, Edmund Randolph of
However, Elbridge Gerry of
James Madison asserted that it would “agitate and divide” the Legislature, setting it against itself in battle over who should be President. It is inconceivable to us today to imagine the President directly selected by The US Congress, the US House of Representatives, or both, with no input from the people.
Selection by Election District Electors
On June 18, Alexander Hamilton of
Selection by State-Designated Electors
Oliver Ellsworth proposed that the President be selected by delegates chosen by the state legislatures. This is essentially a modified version of the Electoral College method. He apportioned the number of delegates based on state populations, but there was significant debate on the number of electors to be awarded to each state. It should be noted that it was state legislatures, not the people, which would select the delegates.
Hugh Williamson said that having electors choose the President would be expensive and troublesome. He then supported having the National Legislature pick the President, based on both ease and convenience.
Selection by State Governors
Elbridge Gerry of
Selection by State Legislatures
Selection by the People
Paterson’s New Jersey Plan featured a weak executive. Supporter Roger Sherman said, “The Executive magistracy is nothing more than an institution for carrying the will of the legislature into effect. The person or persons ought to be appointed by and accountable to the Legislature only, which is the depository of the supreme will of the society.” Federalists lined up on the opposite side, arguing for some form of popular election which would vouchsafe the separation of powers among the branches. However, smaller states feared the larger states would dominate popular election and many (most) delegates felt that the populace weren’t ‘qualified’ to select the national executive. Direct election by citizens had few champions.
The Electoral College at Last
The Electoral College was devised as a compromise measure to get enough support to settle the issue. Election of the President was one of the final matters to be resolved before the delegates adjourned.
The large states were pleased that the number of electors was based on population. Small states were satisfied that the House of Representatives would select the President if no candidate received a majority of electoral votes. Finally, the state legislatures were appeased by being given the right to choose the electors.
People, Not States, Should Elect the President
We are not citizens of a state. We are residents of a state: we are citizens of the United Stares of America. The strictures that bound the Founding Fathers are no longer applicable. Due to the climate and practical realities of 1787, the government that was forged struck a balance between the Federal and state governments. That distinction is today an artificial one. William Patterson of
But the President is not elected by the people: the President is elected by the states. Has not
Yet, due to the exigencies of a time long passed, every four years, millions of voters are institutionally and systematically disenfranchised. In 2004, 5,509,826 voters in
cast their ballots for George Bush Those votes counted for nothing. That same
year, in California ,
3,583,544 supporters of John Kerry should have just stayed home: their votes
did not matter. Ohio
The Electoral College need not be abolished. However, state electoral votes should be awarded proportionate to the popular vote. Thus, all votes cast will count towards election of the President. This is in direct contrast to the current system, in which only the votes cast for the majority in a state count.
The Constitution is an enduring document, and its creators included a provision for future amendments as times dictated. But the meeting in
And so it is that in 2016 and beyond, the States should no longer elect the President. Electoral ballots should be awarded based on the popular vote within a state, enfranchising American voters not only in name, but in voice.
The popular mantra of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” cannot be followed here. It should not take a crisis similar to the election of 1800 to right a wrong and fix a flaw. In 1824, Andrew Jackson received more popular votes, but John Quincy Adams carried the Electoral College. Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888) and George Bush (2000) received fewer popular votes but carried the Electoral College, frustrating the will of the people in favor of the states.
In our increasingly apathetic society, those who fulfill their responsibility to vote should be rewarded, not disregarded.
is credited with
writing at least XX of the Federalist Papers. These were anonymous essays,
published in newspapers, supporting and explaining the proposed Constitution.
Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote a total of XX essays. Hamilton
 Rufus King’s Notes for June 4
 Rufus King’s Notes for June 13
 James Madison’s Notes for June 25
 Robert Yates’ Notes for June 9
 Rufus King’s Notes for June 3
 James Madison’s Notes for June 18
 James Madison’s Notes for June 19
 William Pierce’s Notes for May
 Robert Yates’ Notes for June 9
 Robert Yates’ Notes for May 9
 In 1800, Aaron Burr, running as Thomas Jefferson’s Vice Presidential candidate, utilized a loophole in the Constitution and actually received the same number of electoral votes for President as Jefferson. It took 36 ballots to break the deadlock. Four years later, Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, who was credited with carrying the election for
Jefferson. The XII amendment to
the Constitution addressed this flaw, specifying which offices candidates were